Travel as Cliché

Travel is such a cliché. But even more so – travelers are such cliches. I see them, usually in two’s – husband/wife – bf/gf – older married couple and of course – wife/husband/and baby-barely-able-to-walk team. They’re all cliches! The men usually dressed in shorts and their schoolboy socks and their walking shoes and their backpacks and cameras. The girls in their baggy ‘eastern style’ pantaloons, colourful wristbands and the obligatory giant bug eyed sunglasses.

I see them all the time. Outside my window. These walking cliches. The walking dead numbed by the sun that flings hot hammers on their heads. I see them from the kitchen and the bedroom, as they walk along the alley underneath my home. Sometimes they look up to me and; delving into their Spanish language book, utter some masticated spanish in my direction. I feign ignorance and ignore them. Especially the Americans – with their loud banter and they’re “Can you tell us where we can find a nice restaurant around here?”

“Yeah, try that one”

“Have you been? Is it any good?” she say’s in a Southern drawl

“No I haven’t been, but it’s always busy Madame”

She squints her eyes at me

“Are you French?”

“What?”

The women looks at her husband doubtful of my advice

“Well fuck off then” I mutter under my voice

Cliches. Let’s go see the world! Let’s go find ourselves! Let’s go discover! Let’s go on an adventure!

Pffff! – Most travel is done at arms length. Look but don’t touch. How can it be otherwise? You – as Mr tourist – can afford to visit their country – they, the natives, can’t afford to visit yours. Master – Serf relationship: Imperialism of a modern sort. And all these cliches are after – is the familiar. Some sense of home.

I see them every day. Trudging along the path with their digital cameras and their ‘travel gear’ – sun hats, and cargo pants and rubbing sun tan lotion into their pink skins. Cliches! And the Germans: “Let’s climb mountain hill. Let’s race. See who first!”. It’s not the Eiger man! Nor is it the Himalayan massif.

All the same kind. The same places. The same things seen. The same thoughts rendered. The same paths followed clutching their blue Lonely Planet Guides – the bible of the lazy traveler too scared to get off the beaten path. ‘Travel as discovery’ they say. What utter tripe! I see them groaning under the weight of their backpacks. One at the back and one at the front. Hands clinging onto bags of tourist kitsch – the same kitsch you find in all tourist traps: postcards, key-chains, colourful wristbands and necklaces, garishly rendered mini-paintings and the obligatory fridge magnet! Cliches!

So I see them groaning with their bags. These walking cliches. What a nuisance it must be to carry all that stuff? I, on the other hand – well you know about me so I won’t go there. Back to the land of cliches. Ticking off their ‘things to do list’ – no room left for spontaneity. For randomness. For chaos. What about slowly letting a place ooze into your shoes? Like mud. What about random drifting in the sea of perpetual tranquility? There is a sense in which we feel we need to ‘get our money’s worth’ – but it only leads to boasting matches with fellow travelers!  And it leaves you miserable if you missed something important. Miserable?! You’re on holiday cheer up mate!

The day? What day is it today? Ahhh – It’s Wednesday! Never knew. Didn’t matter. The stars and moon rule my seasons.

I am looking forward to the Atacama.

There was a time when I couldn’t wait to get to Valpo. As I said before:

All travel – is merely the anticipation, of the next thing!

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